Editor's Note: Former Gloucester City Police Office John Driscoll shares his personal thoughts below about his battle with PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety. He included some suggestions on what he did to cope with these common problems. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs PTSD can happen to anyone. It is not a sign of weakness. A number of factors can increase the chance that someone will develop PTSD, many of which are not under that person's control. For example, if you were directly exposed to trauma or are injured, you are more likely to develop PTSD.
(Gloucestercitynews.net)(January 10, 2020)--My name is John Driscoll and I suffer from depression and anxiety as a result of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Although, people who suffer from depression, anxiety or any number of mental illnesses do not always require a starting point or trauma mine did.
Recently, after, my community experienced a great loss, I contemplated sharing my story including what initiated my disorder, how I was diagnosed, and how I am impacted by it. However, after some consideration, I thought it might be more helpful, at least to some, if I share my coping mechanisms, techniques and some information about treatments I have explored in hopes that they might help someone else.
So, I have listed a few items below that may help you if you are suffering from a mental illness.
- Care for yourself. If you are not taking care of yourself physically, attempt too. If you started to go to the gym- good for you. If you had a piece of fruit instead of a candy bar- good for you. If you walked around the block for the first time in a year- good for you. If it was the first time in two days that you got out of bed and took a shower-good for you. I know that if you suffer from depression it can be difficult to exercise. Even, getting out of bed can feel like you already have a great weight to lift, but, find the strength, and take that first step. Then, add to it, and slowly you will feel better. I still suffer but maintaining a healthy lifestyle reduces my depression.
- Consider treatments like therapy, service animals, medication and/or peer groups. The sooner one gets help, usually, dictates the better the outcome. Also, everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another, so, give different remedies a try if need be. Furthermore, you can get a bad doctor or therapist like you can get a bad mechanic, so, if one isn’t good for you, get another doctor.
- Speak up when you are hurting. I was afraid to speak up because of the stigma I thought that would be placed upon me. And, I thought a police officer can’t ask for help. I thought it was a sign of weakness, or that I would lose my job, but I was wrong. If I had received help when I was starting to deteriorate, I may have never gotten to my breaking point.
- Feel no shame about your condition. You are not to blame. You are not weak. You have made it this far despite your medical challenges.
- Know that if you were the best mechanic before you knew your diagnosis, or before your peers knew your diagnosis you are still the best mechanic. Don’t let someone take that from you. I cannot tell you how many times someone attempted to invalidate something I did or said because they, now, know I have PTSD. PTSD doesn’t mean I am no longer a good father or husband.
- Apologize if you wronged someone. Your mental illness does not give you the right to treat others poorly. If once, you apologized to them, and they can’t or won’t forgive you then move on. Only apologize once. There is no living in the past.
- Forgive, if you can, and you will feel better/lighter.
- Avoid overindulgence in drugs and/or alcohol. Consider avoiding them altogether as they are not the solution and can easily exacerbate your mental health issues.
- Rest if you are hit with a steep depression. It is okay to take a day off from work and spend it in bed. No one would want you coming into work with the flu, nor should they want you coming into work in a depressive state. You must realize that you are sick, however, you can’t spend too much time in bed. After you are rested from having the flu you get up and you must do the same after a depressive episode.
- Utilize the tools available. I try to keep my mind occupied as it helps reduce the effects of my PTSD. Sometimes watching a movie or reading an article can do the trick, However, I feel I must be riveted in a book or movie for it to have any significant impact. One thing that has proven helpful in redirecting my mind when it is thrust into a negative episode is doing some activity that requires me to utilize my mental and physical abilities at the same time. So, try challenging yourself to do something that requires both. I find even a simple game of solitaire can help to redirect me. There are numerous apps that you can also utilize like Box Breathe.
- Remember that the old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” should be applied to all social media accounts like Facebook. Social media does not tell the entire story. That picture of a smiling man may be the façade of a man with many problems including depression.
- Celebrate good moments.
- Last, and most important is having a good support system if you have someone already- great, and if you don’t get someone, talk to a family member, friend, therapist, or join a peer group, but never give up.
Retired Police Officer
Some Quick References
American Addiction Centers. (2019, October 10). Can Alcohol Induce Depression? Retrieved from American Addiction Centers: https://americanaddictioncenters.org/alcoholism-treatment/depression
Greenberg, M. (2017, April 2). Stuck in Negative Thinking? It Could Be Your Brain. Retrieved from Psycology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201704/stuck-in-negative-thinking-it-could-be-your-brain
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017, September 27). Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495